With years of perseverance in sports marketing to enhance its independent brand construction and globalization, Hisense has managed to explore its own sports marketing path with brand characteristics.
On October 26, 2022, Hisense and Yutang Sports Business School jointly set up China 's first ' Sports Marketing Innovation Laboratory ', with academic support from the sports marketing expert team of the China Association for Science and Technology (CAST), the expert team of the New Form of Marketing Textbook Series, and the research team of the Sports Business School of Beijing Sport University (BSU).
An enterprise’s development and brand’s growing have always been associated with its marketing strategy, while sports marketing is the most effective way that can be easily understood and perceived by the target consumer group, leading to better market responses.
According to modern sports marketing theories, sport marketing behaviors could generate more positive emotional connections and profound memories, achieving the brand loyalty that is three times more than that obtained through other marketing means. Started with the “Research on the Marketing Strategy and Business Model of Hisense's World Cup Sponsorship”, the laboratory is aiming to create a new chapter for China’s sports marketing development.
1.Chinese companies should adopt sports marketing strategy with strategic thinking.
Unavoidable as the global challenges are under the coronavirus pandemic, they have still brought new opportunities to the sports market and made more industries brands fully realize the unparalleled value of sports in its emotional engagement with the audience, local and global, who share diverse demographics. For those who are seeking for long-term market growth, sports marketing can still secure relative stable benefits.
However, based on the feedback from the market, Yutang Sports noticed that, in recent years, most Chinese brands’ cognitions of sports marketing still stay in a relatively rudimentary stage, with obvious lack of perception of sports marketing’s innovation in digitization, data and fans experience. Xiao Shuhong, president of the BSU Sport Business School, holds a similar view – in the sports marketing cases pool, the number of China’s local sports marketing practices is still far from repletion.
There is no doubt that the Qatar World Cup would be the most significant event of the year in sports marketing. Dating back to the time when there was less than two weeks until the opening of the World Cup, several domestic companies had launched their own World Cup marketing strategies. However, the marketing responses, compared with the Russia World Cup four years ago, were significantly ineffective overall. According to statistics from Yutang Sports, there were 36 Chinese brands engaging in the world cup marketing competitions during the Russia World Cup in a variety of ways, while the number has slumped to less than 20 in 2022.
In addition to the limited share of voice, many brands, though with sponsorship resources, still lack a clear strategy, which has almost become a common failing for most Chinese domestic brands. During the lead-up stage before the World Cup, most brands‘ cognition of sports marketing was still stuck at traditional experience of acquiring premium resources with high prices, without any intentions to construct the marketing system and serve target customers
In fact, the challenges posted by the pandemic are only part of the reasons for the brands’ plight in sports marketing. The deviation of brands' own understanding of sports marketing is sometimes a more fatal factor. According to Yutang Sports' observation over the years, the thinking of “Short-term Conformity and Quick Money” was not unusual among brands during previous major events. However, after the short-term fever, they would soon realize that the investment in sports marketing did not lead to equivalent benefits. It proves to be a “taboo” in sports marketing that goes against the world.
Classic cases from Coca-Cola, Adidas and Budweiser, who have been in World Cup marketing for decades, all indicate some similar strategies, including the construction of marketing system, cross-border cooperation, combination of online and offline resources, licensed product development, and so on. As far as they are concerned, sports marketing, as a systemic project, is never as simplistic as a pure resource or a single campaign.
The ultimate goal of our focus on the classic cases worldwide will finally go back to China’s sports marketing itself. Currently, the sports marketing and major events marketing of Chinese brands have developed into a stage of reflection and sublimation. No matter during Yutang Sports' participation in the SportAccord as its principal media partner, or our 20-year-observation on the market, we have deeply perceived the sore point of China's industry development - China's sports marketing industry, even China's sports industry as a whole, are in urgent need of representative and exemplary cases to earn more power of speech at the global stage.
2.Follow new trends and explore new paths
With the accelerated development in economy, China has come to the forefront in many industries, with some top giants beginning to set standard in certain fields. From a great nation of manufacture to a powerful nation of manufacture, the country has enabled science, technology, intelligence, information, and other innovative elements to decorate people’s daily life. Similar trends could also be perceived in sports marketing. In recent years, a growing number of Chinese brands have begun to seek development and breakthroughs in major events, such as the World Cup, and some of them, with accumulation of practices, have gained enough power and confidence to spread the voice on behalf of China’s sports community. Hisense is one of the most typical examples.
In its road of using sports marketing for brand globalization, Hisense has demonstrated a best answer through long-term practices. In addition, through the case of Hisense, the decisive role of sustainable investment in sports marketing strategy could also be clearly perceived. Since partnership with the Australian Open in 2008, Hisense has gone through 15 years of experience in sports marketing, with a long-term blueprint that is rarely existed among Chinese brands.
Up to now, Hisense has sponsored two consecutive European Cups, and is enjoying its second World Cup appearance. By continuously sponsoring world-class football competitions, Hisense has not only effectively enhanced its own brand awareness, but also accelerated its production of high-quality products supported by its R&D resources worldwide, leading to the rapid growth of the brand’s global market share. It is understood that, from the 2016 European Cup to the 2020 European Cup, Hisense's overseas sales revenue increased from 19.6 billion to 72.5 billion RMB, with the proportion of overseas markets increasing from less than 20% to 41%.
In addition, based on the characteristics of different overseas markets, Hisense has also carried out a lot of sports marketing attempts with localized characteristics, leading to a unique path with the brand’s own characteristics. In Australia, Hisense not only sponsored the Australian Open, but also left its footprint in Australian rugby. In the United States, Hisense sponsored the nation’s largest and most popular racing series, the NASCAR, while in the UAE, Hisense reached partnership with the Abu Dhabi cricket team. All These achievements have not only supported the brand to expand global market, but also continuously demonstrated China's manufacturing strength and technological strength.
It was right before the opening of the Qatar World Cup that Hisense made a new attempt in sustainable development and social responsibility, based on previous successful experience in sports marketing. Whether through the "Vanishing Stadium" program co-initiated with FIFA in South Africa to focus on climate change and youth development, or through cooperation with Coach Milutinović as the ambassador to lead the Chinese football youth group to Qatar, we can clearly perceive Hisense’s more comprehensive and forward-looking understanding of sports marketing – success in sales and brand awareness could be the most fundamental goals for a brand after making the investment, while a more lofty vision of sports marketing lies in the brand's attention to global sustainable development and contribution to human society as an industry leader.
This is the key vision that enables a brand to transcend the border of a single industry or nationality and gain recognition at the global stage. It is also the key origin of Hisense's confidence to represent Chinese companies in global sports marketing community. This can be regarded as a higher level of marketing. People are now living in a more global and digital society, which requires the brand marketing to have a more open view and innovative ideas while keeping close connections with market and consumers.
Under current market, it is the technology, globalization and social responsibility that is leading the future direction of marketing practices. For Chinese companies, it is far from enough to have Hisense as the only one benchmark. Only through consistent thinking, innovation, and perseverance, could we stand at the forefront of the tide. As a result, it is necessary for brand to stay calm and keep thinking without being distracted by outside noise, so that a suitable and distinctive sports marketing path could be eventually created.
3.From wide-ranging practices to in-depth exploration
As a very open and malleable subject, sports marketing is now rich in forms and diversified in ideas, providing brands with an innovative angle for marketing practices. As more social concerns, such as sustainable development, carbon neutrality, and ESG, begins to have more presence in sports marketing territory, some new angles of thinking and exploring have emerged.
The establishment of China's first sports marketing innovation laboratory marks a more systematic and pragmatic stage of Hisense’s exploration of sports marketing, co-supported by Yutang Sports Business School and BSU Sport Business School, which is also a landmark for China's sports marketing community.
Although sports marketing has become a regular method for many domestic brands, misconceptions and outdated ideas still exist. For a long time in the past, there was a lack of in-depth research and insight into the sports marketing cases.
Over the years, Hisense has adhered to its sports marketing strategy and continuously focused on the brand construction to achieve the goal of globalization, during which a unique sports marketing path has been explored with brand characteristics. The long-term planning and eternal enthusiasm are gradually earning positive feedback.
Continuous experiences in major events sponsorships have become a booster for Hisense to compete at global market and gain a foothold. However, Hisense's sports marketing strategy is never changeless. In recent years, Hisense has not stopped exploring new paths in brand construction and seeking for innovations in sports marketing practices, which not only increases consumers' recognition and acceptance of Hisense, but also leads the brand to an unprecedented height in the industry. Existing as an effective way to compete at global stage, sports marketing has driven Hisense to gradually join the medium and high-end brand categories.
“Whether in theoretical research or in industry influence, Hisense's sports marketing practice can be called a valuable asset for the industry," said Xiao Shuhong, "Hisense's achievements in sports marketing over the years have provided rich research samples for academic community. The brand's far-sighted layout and long-term accumulation are of great reference value for all parties."
The Sports Marketing Innovation Lab is the first attempt under the industry-university-research cooperation in China, which not only means special to the development of sports marketing in China, but also has far-reaching significance for Chinese brands to go abroad and build brand soft power. The newly launched "Research on the Marketing Strategy and Business Model of Hisense's World Cup Sponsorship" will conduct in-depth study in Hisense’s World Cup marketing and excavate the new concept and new model of sports marketing. Stepping into the post-pandemic era, the lab is leading the high-quality development of Chinese brands in sports marketing.